BUILDING TO LAST: TAKE A BACK SEAT

BUILDING TO LAST: TAKE A BACK SEAT - DILEMMA: 'You should be taking more of a back seat,' my finance director tells me, but I've always been a hopeless delegator and I love the business too much to step back. Anyway, why should I? It's my company.

by PATRICK DUNNE, works with 3i
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

DILEMMA: 'You should be taking more of a back seat,' my finance director tells me, but I've always been a hopeless delegator and I love the business too much to step back. Anyway, why should I? It's my company.

ISSUES: First, figure out why your FD is saying this. Perhaps you're cramping someone's style and getting in the way. Maybe the business needs new leadership for the next phase.

What is your top team like? Is there a successor to you among them? Do you want one? Do you see your top team as hired hands or as partners?

How good are they? What are you adding to the mix? Adapting your own role or style and reconfiguring successfully is presumably something you've had to do all along, so why does it feel different now?

You have to be clear about what you really want - maximise wealth, have a good time, dash for growth and sell out, or build something for long-term ownership? Whatever your objective, you must have a motivated top team that matches it.

What do you mean by 'It's my company'? Do you own it 100%? Are there other shareholders? Founders who have taken the biggest risk and contributed the most sometimes find it hard to remember that other shareholders have rights too. The business is probably your biggest financial asset. Separating your management desires from your financial ones can be tricky, but give it a go. Many destroy their own value by hanging on too long.

What are your options? An outright sale, an MBO, retaining majority control but delegating management, gradual transition or carrying on as you are?

External advice may help you to decide. Consider speaking to a trusted adviser, an independent director or one of your mates.

Even if you are the model manager of succession, any significant change in the top team is anxiety-inducing for others. So the way in which change is communicated will have an influence on the result.

ACTION

- Honestly assess what you want for the firm and for yourself.

- Make sure you understand the capabilities and motivation of your top team.

- Be clear whether you are hindering growth or in danger of ruining what you hold so dear.

- If you do delegate to someone else, get out of their hair by getting busy on something different as soon as you can.

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